Tips for the storm's aftermath

August 28, 2011 

General precautions

Watch out for debris-filled streets and weakened bridges.

Avoid downed power lines and trees entangled in power lines.

Check for electrical damage inside your home: frayed wires, sparks or the smell of burning insulation. If you find damage, do not turn your power on until an electrician inspects your system.

Do not connect a generator directly to your home's electrical system. Follow the manufacturer's directions to connect appliances directly to your generator.

Remember that snakes and insects can be a problem after storms.

The state's price gouging law is in effect. Charging an unreasonably excessive amount in times of crisis is against North Carolina law when a disaster is declared by the governor.

Don't pay upfront for repair work. Some contractors may require a "reasonable" down payment, but insist on a written contract that details the work to be performed, the cost and a projected completion date. Pay with a check or credit card, not cash.

Beware of people who promise a "guaranteed" loan from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, especially if they require an upfront payment. (FEMA doesn't charge a loan application fee.) Verify the credentials of anyone offering low-interest government loans by contacting the agency involved.

Beware of a contractor who knocks on your door soliciting work.

Whenever possible, obtain three written estimates for repair work and compare them. Check whether any complaints have been filed against contractors with the Attorney General's Office and the Better Business Bureau.

Watch out for charity scams. Telemarketing frauds spring into action with phony pleas for donations in the wake of disasters. Check on a charity's legitimacy by calling the Secretary of State's Office at 888-830-4989.

Report a scam or fraud by calling the Attorney General's Office at 877-566-7226 or by filing a complaint on the AG's website www.ncdoj.gov/

Power outages

Progress Energy customers should report outages to 800-419-6356 or online at www.progress-energy.com/storm, or via smartphones at the company's mobile website at m.progress-energy.com. Register online before the storm hits.

Progress will update its storm restoration progress at www .facebook.com/ProgressEnergyCarolinas .

N.C. Electric Membership Corp. customers should call the co-op that serves their area to report outages.

Insurance

Report claims promptly, because adjusters handle them first-come, first-served.

Write down your claim number.

Keep records of all contacts with your insurer, listing date, time and a brief description of the exchange.

Find out if the adjuster is an employee of your insurance company or an independent. If independent, find out what company your information is going to and whether it's authorized to make decisions and payments on behalf of your insurer.

Limit any repairs done before an adjuster's visit to those needed to protect your home from additional damage.

Before making emergency repairs, take photographs and keep receipts for work done.

Keep receipts for any living expenses, such as hotel costs if your home is uninhabitable.

Consult your insurer or check your policy before hiring a tree removal service. Policies differ on whether tree removal or debris is covered; some policies only cover tree removal if the tree has fallen on your house or other property such as a fence or utility shed.

If you have questions, contact the N.C. Department of Insurance at 800-546-5664 or 919-807-6750. Visit www.ncdoi .com.

Keeping your water safe after a flood

Use bottled water that has not been exposed to floodwaters if it is available.

If you don't have bottled water, boil water to make it safe.

If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for boiling.

Boil the water for one minute, let it cool, and store it in clean containers with covers.

If you can't boil water, you can disinfect it using household bleach. Bleach kills some types of disease-causing organisms that may be in the water. If the water is cloudy, filter it through clean cloths or allow it to settle, and draw off the clear water for disinfection. Add 1 /8 teaspoon (or eight drops) of regular, unscented, liquid household bleach per each gallon of water. Stir it well and let it stand for at least 30 minutes before use.

Store disinfected water in clean containers with covers.

If you have a well that has been flooded, the water should be tested and disinfected. If you suspect your well may be contaminated, contact a health department or agriculture extension agent.

Keeping your food safe after a flood

Do not eat food that may have come in contact with floodwater.

Also, discard cardboard juice/milk/baby formula boxes and home canned foods if they have come in contact with floodwater.

Inspect canned foods and discard any food in damaged cans. Can damage is shown by swelling, leakage, punctures, holes, fractures, extensive deep rusting, or crushing/denting severe enough to prevent normal stacking.

Undamaged, commercially prepared foods in all-metal cans can be saved if you follow this procedure: Remove the labels if possible, because they can harbor dirt and bacteria. Brush away any dirt or silt. Thoroughly wash the cans or retort pouches with soap and water if available. Rinse with water that's safe for drinking, if available; dirt or residual soap will reduce the effectiveness of chlorine sanitation.

Thoroughly wash metal pans, ceramic dishes and utensils (including can openers) with soap and water, using hot water if available. Rinse and then sanitize them by boiling in clean water or immersing them for 15 minutes in a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available).

Thoroughly wash countertops with soap and hot water. Rinse and then sanitize by applying a solution of 1 tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of drinking water (or the cleanest, clearest water available). Allow to air dry.

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